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EN BANC

[B.M. No. 2540. September 24, 2013.]

IN RE: PETITION TO SIGN IN THE ROLL OF ATTORNEYS

MICHAEL A. MEDADO , petitioner.

RESOLUTION

SERENO , C.J : p

We resolve the instant Petition to Sign in the Roll of Attorneys led by petitioner Michael A.
Medado (Medado).
Medado graduated from the University of the Philippines with the degree of Bachelor of
Laws in 1979 1 and passed the same year's bar examinations with a general weighted
average of 82.7. 2
On 7 May 1980, he took the Attorney's Oath at the Philippine International Convention
Center (PICC) together with the successful bar examinees. 3 He was scheduled to sign in
the Roll of Attorneys on 13 May 1980, 4 but he failed to do so on his scheduled date,
allegedly because he had misplaced the Notice to Sign the Roll of Attorneys 5 given by the
Bar Office when he went home to his province for a vacation. 6
Several years later, while rummaging through his old college les, Medado found the
Notice to Sign the Roll of Attorneys. It was then that he realized that he had not signed in
the roll, and that what he had signed at the entrance of the PICC was probably just an
attendance record. 7 TCAScE

By the time Medado found the notice, he was already working. He stated that he was
mainly doing corporate and taxation work, and that he was not actively involved in litigation
practice. Thus, he operated "under the mistaken belief [that] since he ha[d] already taken
the oath, the signing of the Roll of Attorneys was not as urgent, nor as crucial to his status
as a lawyer"; 8 and "the matter of signing in the Roll of Attorneys lost its urgency and
compulsion, and was subsequently forgotten." 9
In 2005, when Medado attended Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) seminars,
he was required to provide his roll number in order for his MCLE compliances to be
credited. 1 0 Not having signed in the Roll of Attorneys, he was unable to provide his roll
number.
About seven years later, or on 6 February 2012, Medado led the instant Petition, praying
that he be allowed to sign in the Roll of Attorneys. 1 1
The Of ce of the Bar Con dant (OBC) conducted a clari catory conference on the matter
on 21 September 2012 1 2 and submitted a Report and Recommendation to this Court on 4
February 2013. 1 3 The OBC recommended that the instant petition be denied for
petitioner's gross negligence, gross misconduct and utter lack of merit. 1 4 It explained
that, based on his answers during the clari catory conference, petitioner could offer no
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valid justification for his negligence in signing in the Roll of Attorneys. 1 5
After a judicious review of the records, we grant Medado's prayer in the instant petition,
subject to the payment of a ne and the imposition of a penalty equivalent to suspension
from the practice of law. IEAaST

At the outset, we note that not allowing Medado to sign in the Roll of Attorneys would be
akin to imposing upon him the ultimate penalty of disbarment, a penalty that we have
reserved for the most serious ethical transgressions of members of the Bar.
In this case, the records do not show that this action is warranted.
For one, petitioner demonstrated good faith and good moral character when he nally led
the instant Petition to Sign in the Roll of Attorneys. We note that it was not a third party
who called this Court's attention to petitioner's omission; rather, it was Medado himself
who acknowledged his own lapse, albeit after the passage of more than 30 years. When
asked by the Bar Con dant why it took him this long to le the instant petition, Medado
very candidly replied:
Mahirap hong i-explain yan pero, yun bang at the time, what can you say? Takot
ka kung anong mangyayari sa'yo, you don't know what's gonna happen. At the
same time, it's a combination of apprehension and anxiety of what's gonna
happen. And, nally it's the right thing to do. I have to come here . . . sign the roll
and take the oath as necessary. 1 6

For another, petitioner has not been subject to any action for disquali cation from the
practice of law, 1 7 which is more than what we can say of other individuals who were
successfully admitted as members of the Philippine Bar. For this Court, this fact
demonstrates that petitioner strove to adhere to the strict requirements of the ethics of
the profession, and that he has prima facie shown that he possesses the character
required to be a member of the Philippine Bar. CSHDTE

Finally, Medado appears to have been a competent and able legal practitioner, having held
various positions at the Laurel Law Of ce, 1 8 Petron, Petrophil Corporation, the Philippine
National Oil Company, and the Energy Development Corporation. 1 9
All these demonstrate Medado's worth to become a full- edged member of the Philippine
Bar. While the practice of law is not a right but a privilege, 2 0 this Court will not
unwarrantedly withhold this privilege from individuals who have shown mental tness and
moral fiber to withstand the rigors of the profession.
That said, however, we cannot fully exculpate petitioner Medado from all liability for his
years of inaction.
Petitioner has been engaged in the practice of law since 1980, a period spanning more
than 30 years, without having signed in the Roll of Attorneys. 2 1 He justi es this behavior
by characterizing his acts as "neither willful nor intentional but based on a mistaken belief
and an honest error of judgment." 2 2
We disagree.
While an honest mistake of fact could be used to excuse a person from the legal
consequences of his acts 2 3 as it negates malice or evil motive, 2 4 a mistake of law cannot
be utilized as a lawful justi cation, because everyone is presumed to know the law and its
consequences. 2 5 Ignorantia facti excusat; ignorantia legis neminem excusat. cCSDTI

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Applying these principles to the case at bar, Medado may have at rst operated under an
honest mistake of fact when he thought that what he had signed at the PICC entrance
before the oath-taking was already the Roll of Attorneys. However, the moment he realized
that what he had signed was merely an attendance record, he could no longer claim an
honest mistake of fact as a valid justi cation. At that point, Medado should have known
that he was not a full- edged member of the Philippine Bar because of his failure to sign in
the Roll of Attorneys, as it was the act of signing therein that would have made him so. 2 6
When, in spite of this knowledge, he chose to continue practicing law without taking the
necessary steps to complete all the requirements for admission to the Bar, he willfully
engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.
Under the Rules of Court, the unauthorized practice of law by one's assuming to be an
attorney or of cer of the court, and acting as such without authority, may constitute
indirect contempt of court, 2 7 which is punishable by ne or imprisonment or both. 2 8 Such
a nding, however, is in the nature of criminal contempt 2 9 and must be reached after the
ling of charges and the conduct of hearings. 3 0 In this case, while it appears quite clearly
that petitioner committed indirect contempt of court by knowingly engaging in
unauthorized practice of law, we refrain from making any nding of liability for indirect
contempt, as no formal charge pertaining thereto has been filed against him.
Knowingly engaging in unauthorized practice of law likewise transgresses Canon 9 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides: HSTaEC

CANON 9 A lawyer shall not, directly or indirectly, assist in the unauthorized


practice of law.

While a reading of Canon 9 appears to merely prohibit lawyers from assisting in the
unauthorized practice of law, the unauthorized practice of law by the lawyer himself is
subsumed under this provision, because at the heart of Canon 9 is the lawyer's duty to
prevent the unauthorized practice of law. This duty likewise applies to law students and
Bar candidates. As aspiring members of the Bar, they are bound to comport themselves in
accordance with the ethical standards of the legal profession.
Turning now to the applicable penalty, previous violations of Canon 9 have warranted the
penalty of suspension from the practice of law. 3 1 As Medado is not yet a full- edged
lawyer, we cannot suspend him from the practice of law. However, we see it t to impose
upon him a penalty akin to suspension by allowing him to sign in the Roll of Attorneys one
(1) year after receipt of this Resolution. For his transgression of the prohibition against the
unauthorized practice of law, we likewise see it t to ne him in the amount of P32,000.
During the one year period, petitioner is warned that he is not allowed to engage in the
practice of law, and is sternly warned that doing any act that constitutes practice of law
before he has signed in the Roll of Attorneys will be dealt with severely by this Court.
WHEREFORE , the instant Petition to Sign in the Roll of Attorneys is hereby GRANTED .
Petitioner Michael A. Medado is ALLOWED to sign in the Roll of Attorneys ONE (1) YEAR
after receipt of this Resolution. Petitioner is likewise ORDERED to pay a FINE of P32,000
for his unauthorized practice of law. During the one year period, petitioner is NOT
ALLOWED to practice law, and is STERNLY WARNED that doing any act that constitutes
practice of law before he has signed in the Roll of Attorneys will be dealt with severely by
this Court. cDTaSH

Let a copy of this Resolution be furnished the Of ce of the Bar Con dant, the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines, and the Of ce of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts
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in the country.
SO ORDERED .
Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-de Castro, Del Castillo, Abad, Perez, Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe
and Leonen, JJ., concur.
Brion and Villarama, Jr., JJ., are on leave.
Peralta, Bersamin and Mendoza, JJ., are on official leave.

Footnotes

1. Rollo, p. 1; Petition dated 6 February 2012.

2. Id.
3. Id. at 2.

4. Id.
5. Id. at 10.
6. Id. at 2.

7. Id.
8. Id.

9. Id.
10. Id. at 3.

11. Id. at 4.
12. Id. at 20; TSN, 21 September 2012.
13. Id. at 35-43; Report and Recommendation of the OBC dated 24 January 2013.

14. Id. at 42.


15. Id.

16. Rollo, p. 28; Report and Recommendation of the OBC dated 24 January 2013.
17. Id. at 3; Petition dated 6 February 2012.

18. Id. at 22; TSN, 21 September 2012, p. 3.


19. Id. at 34; id. at 15.
20. Barcenas v. Alvero, A.C. No. 8159, 23 April 2010, 619 SCRA 1, 11.

21. Rollo, p. 35; TSN, 21 September 2012, p. 16.


22. Id. at 3; Petition dated 6 February 2012.

23. Wooden v. Civil Service Commission, 508 Phil. 500, 515 (2005).

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24. Manuel v. People, 512 Phil. 818, 836 (2005).
25. Id.
26. Aguirre v. Rana, 451 Phil. 428, 435 (2003).

27. RULES OF COURT, Rule 71, Sec. 3 (e).


28. Tan v. Balajadia, 519 Phil. 632 (2006).

29. Id.
30. RULES OF COURT, Rule 71, Sec. 3.

31. See Tapay v. Bancolo , A.C. No. 9604, 20 March 2013, Noe-Lacsamana v. Busmente , A.C.
No. 7269, 23 November 2011, 661 SCRA 1; and Cambaliza v. Cristal-Teronio , 478 Phil.
378 (2004).

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